Everything has a cycle… what was once popular, and common in our lives changes, and goes out of favor. At the break of the last century it was common for shops and stores to be local oriented, local kept, and an opportunity to learn a trade, craft, art from the elders, so that one day you would fill the shoes and take up the reigns of the business.
As a kid i remember going with my mom to the local butcher for meat for dinner. He knew my mom, and knew what she liked. Always had a kind of sense about what to select and offer her. We also frequented a local bakery when Mom didn’t make her own home made bread. And the shoe store knew us by name, eagerly anticipating the next year’s version of saddle shoes, or spring Easter shoes.
Small Business once made up almost all of the business of our nation. Little by little we have moved away from small business to big box retail, large and extravagant grocery stores that sell everything imaginable, and more. And we have lost a sense of community, of the importance of knowing people, and being known. Like the butcher that remembered my mom’s preferred meat choices, or the baker that knew I was allergic to wheat…. We were a part of a bigger community, known and willing to support local endeavors because they were our neighbors, our friends, and our economy.
Perhaps it is just my “becoming more conscious” of my inner desire to take my business to a sustainable economic force in the local market or perhaps there is actually a trend under foot to return to a local economy, where you know where your food came from, and who cut your meat, and you respected and upheld each and every expertise. We are seeing that with the rise of farmers markets around the nation, and around our community. Buying local grown is special…no longer is it a hinderance to progress, but a benefit that our food is fresher, less subject to long transportation and chemical preservation efforts. And the slow food movement has enhanced our desire for good, well made, comfort food. Slow roasted chicken, or that wonderful meal that was put together over a period of time, filling the home with wonderful smells… and by the time you sit down to eat you have eaten with your eyes and your senses…
Well, that was off the track a bit- but the point is there was once a time when local was the only option, but it was a good option. We knew our place, our expertise, where to source what we needed, and who to speak with about those needs. And they knew our information too. The expertise of the local person was often phenomenal. I am thinking of two people i have encountered that make products that cannot be found to comapare. Melanie, your chocolate is silky and delightful, a luxury that does not exist apart from the hand crafted chocolate product you make. And Deb, your croissants are so fabulous that we really think you have a small french grandma chained in your kitchen… They are so flakey and buttery wonderfulness. But they are hand crafted, made with care, locally in small quantities. Not the big box open frozen dough and shove it in the oven kind of products. Your products are the best. That is community. Having a purpose, knowing a name, having a friendship, a relationship that gives value to the products.
These past few years i have seen a rise in the amount of people finding their inner creativity, snapping off those bands of fear and doubt, and plunging into the market place with their products. Fearless (or maybe scared beyond fear!) but willing to say to the world “Lets do this local, lets get to know each other and see what we have to offer each other.” Our soap business has been alot of the personal contact, the willingness to talk, discuss, reminesce, or just have a sniff-a-thon with our rack of soap. But at the heart of the matter we crave a purpose in the community, and to be known, plugged in, belonging.
If you are one of those creative types, stick your toes in the water of the market place… You might find a whole new purpose to your life, and one that satisfies more than all of your lifelong career and education ever could.
And if you are bold enough, get your ducks in a row and plunge in… know your market, know your competition, and begin forming alliances, friendships, mentorships… and watch that idea grow into something mighty amazing.